Is the cure worse than the disease?


by Bigad Shaban / Eyewitness News

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 10:43 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 11 at 8:36 AM

As the wait for a major oil landfall continues, there are new concerns over the still growing mess in the Gulf. Experts are now concerned that one of the so-called 'solutions' to fight the oil could be spreading another toxic mess.

Nearly three weeks after oil first began leaking off the coast of Louisiana, the 3.5 million gallons of crude and counting are still taking shape - the oil at the whim of the winds.
High above, planes try to stop the spread by dropping chemicals called dispersants, which are designed to break down the oil into small droplets that eventually sink to the ocean floor.
"We want some assurances this won't cause more damages in the long term to some very sensitive fisheries," said Governor Bobby Jindal.
Cautious lawmakers and weary environmentalists now appear apprehensive at the federal government's recent decision to allow BP to continually spray the chemicals directly onto the leaking well head some 5,000 feet below the surface.
BP is still undertaking a third trial run.
"A process that is being evaluated over the course of a few weeks, what normally what take a few years to do," said Rear Admiral Mary Landry with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Spraying underwater has previously never been done before, unlike the flyover-drops, which in this case, BP has utilized since the rig first sank, dropping 325,000 gallons to date.
"It's time to move onto something safer for our coastal ecosystem," said biologist Bob Thomas, Ph.D. "Because anything being used out there, sooner or later, is going make it into shallower water."
Thomas says while he and other environmentalists were initially in favor of using the dispersant in hopes of minimizing the amount of washed up oil, he says those kinds of toxic chemicals shouldn't be used long term. 
"The tradeoffs are starting to even up and now people are very concerned that the tradeoffs are not going to be worth the risk anymore."
Greener options are available, he says, and at this point are still being ignored by BP. The specific brand of dispersant exclusively being used right now is called Corexit, a chemical that's actually banned in Britain because of proven harmful effects to humans and wildlife, according to Louisiana Rep. A.G. Crowe. The lawmaker is now asking Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to sue BP in hopes of getting them to stop using it. Otherwise, environmentalists fear Louisiana marshes could be threatened, oyster beds could be killed, and wild life living on and below the coast could be impacted in ways that are still unknown.
While the coast guard acknowledges they'd rather create more of those controlled oil burns on the surface, they say rough weather and strong winds have often made that difficult, leaving them no choice but to continue dropping those toxic chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico.